I have no plans to abolish the distinction. Generally speaking, residential care homes and nursing homes cater for people with different needs. That is reflected in the services and facilities that they offer.
Is the Minister aware that neither I nor my hon. Friends are in the pocket of the organisation that Ministers have mentioned three times this afternoon, or in the pocket of the tobacco industry, as are many of his right hon. and hon. Friends? Is he aware of the broad spectrum of agreement among organisations that the continuing division between residential and nursing care is harmful? Many frail, elderly and confused people have to suffer the trauma of changing from one to the other at the most difficult time of life. When can he institute a reform to give us a reliable continuum of care?
The hon. Gentleman seems to be unaware of the fact that there is nothing to stop a residential home from catering for its clients as they become more dependent and frail, by seeking dual registration for part or all of its facilities so that it can operate as both a residential and a nursing home, and in that way can provide exactly the continuum of care that the hon. Gentleman seeks.
As my hon. Friend probably knows, one of the key themes in the whole of our community care policy is to reflect the wishes of both the users and their carers in the community and families. A statutory duty now lies on the local authority to meet those wishes. On the specific point of the continued involvement of families in the future of people who go to residential or nursing homes, we have issued a binding direction to local authorities to ensure that the individual preference of persons and their families in terms of which home they go to is met. I hope that in this way it will be possible for the needs of families who may find it difficult to travel to certain parts of the country to be met in the choice of homes to which people are sent. I will, in any case, pursue the point with home owners at some of the regular meetings that we have with them.